On the other side of the world in Gwangju, South Korea, Alia Wagner remembers her wedding day: “It was exactly the sort of wedding I wanted; the perfect mixture of beautiful and simple,” she said. The Harding University graduate and Rockwall, Texas native, who is currently abroad teaching English to sixth-graders, said she was not the sort of girl who knew exactly what she wanted in a wedding – in fact her only preference was that they have an outdoor wedding. But as schedules and seasons go, August in Arkansas didn’t work for the blushing bride’s original wedding plans. The next best option for the couple was Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Anthony Chapel and Magnolia Room.

The chapel’s floor-to-ceiling windows (57-foot ceiling), wood and stone details, and the verdant wooded landscapre and lake views brought the outdoors in. “I got my heart set on it right away,” she said. “It’s as close to being outside as you can get without actually being outside, and it’s gorgeous all by itself [it doesn’t need extra décor].”

Picnic Perfect Proposal

Long before the 14 months of wedding planning began, Alia and her groom Vincent met at Harding University in Searcy during astronomy class. “I was a year ahead of him in school, so I was a junior and he was a sophomore,” she said, describing how their friendship and work together at the campus library eventually led to romance. “I don't know what took him so long.”

The next year, on the very last day of Alia's college career, Vincent took her on a picnic at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, her favorite place in Arkansas. They noshed on fried catfish and hushpuppies (food that mimicked their first-date meal), chocolate cake from Midnight Oil (her favorite restaurant in Searcy) and her uncle’s homemade ice cream (symbolic of early dates). Then, he popped the question.

Birds of a Feather

Alia was inspired by local birds and bright colors when she began planning her nuptials.

“Lately, birds had just been popping out at me, and they seemed to fit with the chapel,” she said. The colors she chose – dark purple (her favorite color), orange and green – accentuated her romantic bird motif. “Philip from House of Flowers in Hot Springs was incredibly helpful,” Alia said. From there, she set out to bring this whimsical theme to life with do-it-yourself creations and a little help from local vendors and her bridesmaids. “I drew and water colored my own wedding invitations [for 90 guests] with birds on them,” she said. And “I saw this incredibly beautiful cake based on Lenox Chirps china and I found it really inspiring.” She used that cake as a blueprint for her own. Other handmade items included the feathered and bejeweled hair clips for the bridesmaids and her vintage-inspired hat and bird-cage veil, which she also crafted.

For a touch of personality, while still maintaining tradition, Alia and Vincent wrote their own vows and opted for unique music. “I didn’t want to enter to ‘Canon in D,’ she said. “Our music during the ceremony all came from the ‘Amelie’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ movie soundtracks. That was one thing we got a lot of compliments on.”

The Details

Ceremony & Reception Venue
Garvan Woodland Gardens
Special Touch Catering, Hot Springs
Ambrosia Bakery, Hot Springs
House of Flowers, Hot Springs
Guest Accommodations
Staybridge Suites